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Fractal Music ST

By Chris Sansom

Fractal Music ST

Fractal Music ST

By Chris Sansom
Released as Freeware October 2001

In the late 1980's a certain Chris Sanson developed an unusual program for the Atari platform called Fractal Music ST. It was sold thru a company called Datamusic which was founded by Laurence Glazier, an experienced computer programmer.

Today, Chris and Laurence have agreed to a Freeware release of this excellent program. I am also happy to report that Fractal Music ST works well in STEem, the Atari Emulator for PC. I have also tested it on a Falcon and TT030,which means it is 030 compatable.

There are so many things you can do with this program. One novel approach is to import a Midi file and use the programs many algorithms to permutate the music.You can also save what you create as a midi file for importing into your sequencer of choice.

What follows now is information and more detail about the program.


FRACTAL MUSIC is a MIDI program for the Atari ST range of computers--a powerful Real-time music generator and processor written by Chris Sansom, a composer experienced in music ranging from pop songs to advanced contemporary orchestral music, with critical and technical advice from Laurence Glazier, an experienced computer programmer and the founder of Datamusic.

As a music generator, FRACTAL MUSIC: Produces billions of different musical combinations from Fractal Mathematics according to parameters set by the user; Incorporates Randomisable parameters; Has 16 tracks. The program uses a cyclical, iterative process from Fractals to generate monophonic lines of music. The process is 3-dimensional, affecting the pitch, placement in time and key velocity of each new note. The result is REAL MUSIC with melodic, rhythmic and dynamic interest--including rests! Recognisable near-repetitions of musical shapes occur frequently, lending extra validity to the musical output. It is possible for the user, by judicious setting of parameters (and with the editing features described below), to produce subtle variations on the same music in a number of different ways.

As a music processor, FRACTAL MUSIC offers extraordinary Music Editing facilities (and some standard ones), including:
Quantizing; Stretching and Squashing of pitch range; Lengthening and Shortening of time-scale, resulting in simultaneous different tempi; Transposition; Shifting backwards and forwards in time; Reflecting the music in an axis at any angle, with a selected note and time as origin with these short cuts:
Inversion about any note (or between notes)--i.e. reflection in a horizontal axi, Turning the music Backwards--i.e. reflection in a vertical axis; Rotating the music through any angle, with a similarly selected origin with this short cut:
Retrograde Inversion--equivalent to rotating through 180 degrees. Some of these techniques (transposition, stretching, squashing, inversion, retrograde) have been familiar to composers for centuries. FRACTAL MUSIC does them automatically. Others (reflection, rotation) are logical extensions of these concepts, but extremely difficult and tedious to do manually.

Chris Sansom has already used these techniques in his serious compositions. Other features include:
Full two-way MIDI File compatibility, allowing the user to transfer the program's output to a sequencer for building up large-scale compositions, or to import other material into FRACTAL MUSIC in order to apply the program's special editing features, or any other combination the user wishes to dream up;
FRACTAL MUSIC's own two file formats, for saving parameters only or parameters plus any MIDI data generated;
Ability to run on all ST and STE machines (1 megabyte recommended, but not essential);
Compatibility with monochrome or colour (medium resolution) systems;
Tempo range of 41.18 to 480 beats per minute;
Time resolution of 96 "ticks" per beat;
Full implementation of the Atari ST's GEM interface, including menus, overlaid edit screens etc.;
Checking of available memory or disk space, where appropriate, before each operation is carried out;
Keyboard shortcuts for all mouse commands, plus some extra keyboard commands; Help screens giving keyboard commands at all points in the program;
Full MIDI event list, on screen or printed out; Detailed print-outs of parameters (including random ones) set by the user;
MIDI Thru, routed to any MIDI channel, allowing the user to select suitable sounds or play the keyboard while the program is loaded.

CHRIS SANSOM, B.MUS. Chris has a background in music - mainly as a composer and since the early 80s has evolved into an all-round "computer person". During this period he wrote the MIDI software package Fractal Music.

He is also a qualified teacher and worked for about 15 years as a Media Resources Officer in inner London schools, during which time he developed skills in DTP and database management, including designing learning materials, producing a weekly newssheet, maintaining a database of school records and processing the school's exam statistics each year.

As a sideline - and mainly for fun - Chris created the shareware font (or typeface) Mac KeyCaps, which has turned out to be surprisingly useful to a number of people.

This combination of expertise in coding and experience in design and page layout equips him well to handle the technical side of Highway 57's work.(see link below)On the Highway 57 site are examples of his music as well as his web pages he has created including a web site devoted to the Late Frank Zappa. Excellent!


I am now happy to announce that Chris Sansom has completed the documentation for Fractal Music ST. It is in PDF format which can be read on most platforms.He has done an excellent job with many illustrations within the text. It can be downloaded below.

It is programs like this that make it worthwhile to having an Atari in the studio.


Go here for the download

Download Fractal Music ST

Download Fractal Music ST DOCS in PDF format

Chris Sansom's Web Site


The Fractal Music ST File Section at Atari-MIDI.
FMST was Application of the Month at the Atari-MIDI mailing list. Chris Sansom came aboard for the month so we have had a good time discussing his application as well as creating files for it. See what we produced with the below link. You will need to be an Atari-MIDI forum member to access these files. See Forums (above)

Fractal Music ST File Section

E-Mail Chris Sansom about Fractal Music ST :